How To Carry a Heavy Backpack – Save Yourself a Trip To The Doctor

With our daily activities requiring us to put a lot of items into our backpacks which in turn makes our packs become heavier, we need to learn some ways on how to carry a heavy backpack. You can consider this post a part two on the proper way to wear a backpack but this post would duel on heavy backpacks and how to carry them.

We are no longer ignorant of the effects carrying a heavy backpack can have on our health. A heavy pack should be avoided at all cost and if possible after you finish packing your bag and it is heavy you should offload it and force yourself to reduce the load in the pack by at least 30%.

Prevention is always better than cure and although the tips that would be provided in this post can help you know how to carry a heavy backpack, it is imperative that you always try to reduce the load you carry on your back.

There are a lot of young people and even some adults with the straps of their backpacks so loose that it ends up hanging way below their waist. Now for whatever reason this is done I do not know because I won’t even consider that fashion.Three girls wearing a backpack

If you have ever carried a light pack and a heavy pack then I am pretty sure you know how different they both feel. To make your bag sit more than an inch below your waist defeats the purpose of a backpack.

Why Avoid Carrying a Heavy Backpack

Apart from the obvious reason of a heavy pack been dangerous to your health, I would give some reasons that are not as obvious but are just as important.

Limits your movement

Ever gone hiking with a really heavy backpack and you were let’s say probably about to make a jump? I am pretty sure you noticed how difficult that jump was and that’s if you were even able to make the jump. Well, guess what, I am pretty sure that one of the reasons you were not able to make that jump was because of your heavy backpack.

Maybe you should do a test run and try putting the pack down to see if you would feel more confident that you would be able to make that jump. I am pretty sure you would feel more confident than when you had the heavy backpack on.A guy jumping from one rock to another

This is just a typical example for those that hike and I am pretty sure that there are more experiences we go through on our day to day activities in which our movements are limited because of our heavy packs.

Been Mobile and Nimble

For those of us that are always on the go with a backpack, we would appreciate how it feels making use of a lighter pack than we do a backpack that is heavy. Even for those of us in school, the joy of not making use of a heavy backpack cannot be overstated. You literally get to take some loads off your shoulders by making use of a backpack that is not loaded to the top with books.

Can Make Your Day Miserable

Let’s not forget about been miserable because of a heavy backpack. That heavy backpack you haul around town might just be making you feel miserable which might just be making you have a crappy day.

Some of these can be avoided or at the very least reduced if you just make your pack lighter.

How To Carry a Heavy Backpack

Are all the items in your bag considered a necessity? Then you need to be enlightened on how you can carry that heavy backpack.

The golden rule

The golden rule for body weight is to carry at most 15percent of your body weight. Whether you are a kid or an adult this rule should apply to you. You can pretty much do the maths to know how much weight you should carry. Let’s say you weigh about 120 pounds. To know the amount of weight you should carry you take 15percent of 120 pounds which is 30 pounds. Its pretty straightforward and anybody can do this.

Make sure heavier items are placed at the bottom

Whatever you are carrying that involves anything that is heavy you should make sure that you put those that are heavy at the bottom of the pack. If you are to place heavier items at the bottom of your backpack the weight would shift to your back instead of your shoulders and neck. This can result in a much lower change in posture than otherwise.

Take short breaks

This is very important and can make you less stressed when you carry a heavy pack. You should take breaks that can help you regain some of your energy to be able to properly carry your heavy pack and also to catch some breadth.A guy taking a short break after walking a long distance with his backpack Your pack doesn’t need to be on your back 24/7. If you can, you can always hold it for some few minutes to help reduce the time it spends on your back.

Use both straps

In the proper way to wear a backpack, the importance of wearing both straps of a backpack was stated. This can help distribute the weight of your heavy backpack evenly across both of your shoulders. This, in turn, can make your pack easier and more comfortable to carry.

If your pack is made up of only one strap, you should make sure you periodically swap sides in order to avoid putting all the burden on just one side of your shoulders.

Keep your pack close to your body

If your backpack is not always close to your body it can put a strain on the muscles of your back. Always make sure the straps of your pack is not loose as this can make your bag swing while you walk causing more strain on the muscles of your back.

Properly arrange your items

By arranging your items the right way you can even out the load you carry and this can help to distribute the weight evenly which can help reduce the effect of carrying the heavy pack.

Make use of load lifters

Some backpacks make use of load adjustment lifters. This can be used to bring the upper part of the backpack closer to your back which can help your pack from flopping around on your back and also helps to make the load balanced which in turn lifts the bag off your shoulders better securing it to your back.

Make sure it forms an angle approximately 45 degrees with the back panel of the backpack and also with the horizontal plane that is tangent to the top of your shoulders. Make sure they are not over tightened as that can make you feel uncomfortable.

Pack less

Trust me when I tell you that you don’t really need as much as you think you do. You should try to force yourself to make sure you pack less. Whenever you pack and you feel it is too heavy, you should empty the bag and reduce your items making sure items that would not be useful are removed not forgetting that some items can serve multiple purposes.

You really don’t have to turn your backpack into a bottomless pit. Remember Mary Poppins and her magic carpet bag that contained almost everything. I don’t think your backpack should be that way because trust me when I tell you that Mary Poppins had it easy because it was a magic bag.

The movie mary poppins showing mary poppins and two kids
This scene is from the movie mary poppins showing mary poppins putting items into a bag and also collecting items from the same bag and two kids with her are wondering where all the items she takes from the bag are coming from

The bags we own are not magic bags and putting lots of items into it can make the bag become heavy real fast.

Go for the alternative

It is not a rule that when you are carrying a lot of items to always make use of a backpack. You can always go the other way by making use of a rolling bag. If you live in areas that a rolling bag can be easily used, you should not hesitate and should make use of rolling backs. It might look old school but it is saving you from putting a lot of burden on your back.

The best way to carry your backpack is to make it light but if you should carry a heavy backpack it should not be done on a regular basis. The tips provided above would help you to be able to carry your heavy backpack so you would not need a trip to the chiropractic doctor.

If you know you cannot avoid carrying heavy loads, you should try to strengthen your core and your back muscles in order to be able to carry that load. No age group is spared from the dangers of carrying a heavy backpack which is why we all have to learn how to carry a heavy backpack.

I hope you learned something from this post that you can make use of and if you have any questions relating to how to carry a heavy backpack or you have your own personal experience(s), please live a comment below.

44 comments on “How To Carry a Heavy Backpack – Save Yourself a Trip To The Doctor

  1. Hi Manuel

    This is really important and valuable information for everyone, whether they are hiking or carrying a backpack around going to and from worker school.

    I would think that every parent would want to pass this information on to their children, and make sure that they understand how to pack the backpack correctly, and how to wear it properly, and to also understand the dangers to their health of not doing that. This is particularly important as many children have to carry a selection of heavy books around as they go from class to class all day at school, and they need to understand the dangers. I would also think that a properly packed backpack is vital for anyone who wears one whilst riding a bike, would you agree?

    Many thanks for your really helpful post.

    Chrissie 🙂

    1. Yes Chrissie, it’s important to properly pack a backpack even for those riding a bike so the pack can be balanced and the weight of the backpack would be properly distributed.

  2. I’m glad to have found this article. I have to use a backpack every day and often I have a miserable day when I go and come back from work.

    I often forget to take unnecessary things out of my backpack, I know, it takes only some seconds to do that but in the morning I’m too much in a hurry and evenings I want to relax and don’t think about it.

    I didn’t know the rule of 15% of body weight, I’ll have to check that.

    That it is more comfortable to walk when the backpack is as close to the body as possible I have already found out 🙂

  3. This is actually a very interesting topic that I haven’t heard before and also it’s just not only interesting but also very useful for anyone who carries lot of stuff with them. It can be really frustrating for someone Carey a heavy weight bag but this article can be the key for it. 

    Thank you for writing this useful article and Sharing it with us.

  4. These are great tips on how to properly carry a heavy backpack.  I do use most of those tips now, other then I know I have a lot more weight in my pack than I should.  This is probably a silly question, but what is a rolling backpack?  I have hiked and back packed my whole life, pretty much using the same gear.  Maybe it is time to look into some new stuff!

    1. No question here can be a silly question. You can consider a rolling backpack as a backpack that has rollers which can be rolled on the ground instead of wearing the pack on your back. You also have the option of wearing it on your back if you decide to.

  5. Hello Manuel,

    Thank you for sharing this interesting and very informative post. You make a lot of very good points and I agree carrying a heavy backpack over a period of time can cause a number of problems. Your rule about carrying 15 percent of your bodyweight is good because for the majority of people that is a reasonable amount of weight to carry around. I also like your rule about keeping your pack close to your body. During a long trip, I had the straps on my backpack hang too low and it was causing unnecessary strain on my shoulders. Since that day, I have made it a habit to tighten the straps properly every time and that action has made a noticeable difference. 

  6. Thanks for your recommendations for carrying a heavy backpack.  I am a victim of carrying a heavy one with one stride and sometimes it leads to my back aching a lot. The choice of going for an alternative is a great one.  Do you have any recommendations where one can buy the rolling bags?

  7. Huh… just the title made me straighten my back. 

    Probably, it won’t last for long, though. I’m used to working a lot of hours in front of a computer sitting on a chair and I don’t take care of my spine as often as I should.

    I carry a lot of things in my backpack – a habit from my days as a student. I usually just put them as fast as I can and never notice how I order them. I guess I should change that. 😛 

    Thank you so much for your tips on how to do that! 

    P.S.: Occasionally, I have the backpack on the front with the straps on the back. I’ve read somewhere that this is a good way to reverse some of the damage. What’s your opinion on this? Thanks in advance!

    1. Hello Jenny, I am not absolutely sure about that. If you feel pains at the back I think the best thing you should do is to see a chiropractic doctor as they can help you in relieving the pain you feel and give you directions on how to prevent the pain from occurring and if it can be reversed you would also be given instructions.

  8. Thanks a lot for this backpack tips. I didn’t know before that we should keep our pack close to our body, otherwise, it can put a strain on our back muscles. From now I will always keep it in mind while carrying a backpack. Thank you very much for this wonderful tip as well as other tips.

  9. I like to carry my backpack with one hand cos I think this is cool but lately, I’ve begun to notice my back is getting damaged from resting all the weight on one hand. So I think it’s really true when you say bags should be carried on both hands. By the way, I really have never been a fan of sagging bags, I think it’s just absolutely lazy. Thanks for writing, always enjoy your blog

    1. A lot of people do like to carry their backpacks on just one side of their shoulders. If you prefer this method you can always alternate the shoulders so you limit the weight been exerted on only one of your shoulders.

  10. I couldn’t agree with you more. I used to carry more than I needed in my backpack not realizing that it could really mess with my mood. When I decided to unload stuffs that I didn’t really need it does make a difference. Not just with my mood but also the mobility I get. Thanks for sharing all your tips, it is very useful.

    1. People hardly realize this but something as simple as a heavy backpack can make us be more stressed which can really affect our mood which can make us have a crappy day. 

  11. This is a great and simple to follow guide on how to carry heavy backpacks

    You laid it all out clearly and showed series of examples that helped emphasize your various points. This guide will be very useful for me. 

    I think the best is to limit the heavy loads we carry with our backpacks, because it would restrict so many things from us. You have listed great tips on how to carry backpacks which makes it recomendable.

    Thanks for sharing

  12. I know I’m pretty bad about only using one strap and I often let my pack hang a little. No wonder I’ve got a bad back! I’m sure that’s not the only reason, but it probably did not help. I wasn’t aware of the load adjustment lifters, so that was a hugely valuable piece of information. Thank you for that!

  13. Great article and excellent writeup, you really clear out my curiosity about backpack and back pains. According to what I Iearnt from this post, taking the time to shop for the proper size and design of a backpack is the best way. Then be sure you only carry what is necessary and you don’t overload it. Your pack should lighten your load, not add to it.

  14. Hello Manuel, apart from what the dangers of carrying heavy backpack will do to our health, you have done a good job in even coming up with other effects of what carrying a heavy backpack can do to ourselves. Most people don’t even know about this before. Concerning this post, I wish it can get across to all parents and they will read to know the percent of loads or items they will be packing in their children’s backpack. Many might not be aware of the rule saying 15% of your weight should the maximum weight of the item you can carry in your backpack. Fortunately for me as well, am just getting to know about this rule here and I will make sure I shared this health information to people I know. Thank for the information 

    1. That would be great Yormith. Parents really need to be cautious of the weight their kids carry when they go to school. If done the wrong way it really can have an effect on the health of the child.

  15. Thanks for such a brilliant post, it’s an insightful article about backpacks. Every parent must read and pass this information to their child. Packs are to be carried and arrange well for the benefit of our back. Heavier packs is harmful to our health and our packs shouldn’t be more than 15% of our weight. 

    I found this article very helpful,i will pass around for some parent to see. 

    1. Thanks Adamu for your comment. Parents need to show their kids how to carry their backpacks the right way and this was especially why I wrote the post backpack safety for kids which talked about the safety of kids when it involves the way they carry their backpacks.

  16. Wow! I carry a backpack a lot, and I must say I am guilty of both carrying a heavy pack and when carrying a light pack, I often loosen the straps which ends up hanging below my waist. I now know that I have not been doing the right thing. 

    You are absolutely right on heavy backpack limiting our movements. Not only does it slow down movement,  it makes jumping a little bit difficult and it strains the shoulders. You have got wonderful tips on the proper way of carrying a heavy backpack. I particularly love the idea of carrying 15 percent of one’s body weight as this will definitely not affect one’s health. 

    1. Carrying a heavy backpack definitely limits how flexible our movements are. Whether we are hiking or just going about our normal activities a heavy backpack would definitely give us less freedom to move the way we want.

  17. Wow, I have learnt something new about how to carry a heavy backpack and the side effects of carrying a heavy backpack. I use a backpack when I am traveling for a few days or week and damn, by the time I get to where I was going, my muscles are horribly sore. And you are right, I end up not using everything that I had packed. And now that my kid is doing same backpack stuffing that I do, I’m so worried about her, will try out your tips with her and let her know the dangers that are associated with carrying heavy backpacks and how she can ensure that she puts her health first. 

  18. This is a very informative and educative article. Most people do it wrongly myself inclusive. I have always carrying my back pack very low thinking I am doing it better! Now I know better. I have never heard of this before especially the 15% of body weight part. Thanks for sharing this now I know how to pack for my little boy. I am guilty of almost all the outlined ways to carry back pack from using one strap to putting it so low among others. With this article moving forward I can do it rightly for myself and more importantly for my little boy.
    Thanks for sharing this valuable health tips.

  19. Thank you for the great tips for carrying heavy backpack. I used to carry heavy backpack with loose straps. This hurts my shoulder and back.

    Carrying backpack close to my body is good for me. It really reduces the pressure on my shoulder and back.

    I packed my backpack everyday, making sure that I do not carry stuffs that I do not need.

    1. That’s great Christine, sometimes the reason why our bags become so heavy is because we carry items that we might not make use of during the day. If we carry only those items that are very important, this can reduce the load weight of our backpacks which can lead to our packs not having negative effects on our health.

  20. Thanks for sharing this article. I never knew a heavy backpack could be dangerous to health, thanks for sharing this informative article. I have a bagpack that I use but most times it is too heavy and obviously I don’t arrange my items in the order you mentioned in the post. Now I know how to do that. This article must be read by all especially students who on a daily basis carry a backpack to school. I am forwarding this article to my friends as well. Thanks. 

  21. Hi Manuel,

    Thank you for this very helpful article. I always pity my son for having to carry a heavy school bag / backpack to and from school. The books alone are almost heavier than my son’s weight, and not to mention the water bottle and food container which definitely adds more loads.

    Now l can advise my son how to pack his school bag to avoid unnecessary injuries to his back. I have bookmarked your post and share it with my friends.

    Best wishes

  22. Thanks for the post. It is a simple thing that people ignore and do not pay attention until they have pain or bad things happen. Thanks for bringing awareness and tips of how to carry carry heavy backpack. It is great to know the limit of 15% of our weight. I’m unsure what is load lifters? 


    1. A simple way that you can look at load-lifters on how they work is that they help to lift the load of the backpack off your shoulders so the hips can take the weight of the pack. They also help to keep your backpack close to your body while providing a gap between the top of your shoulder and the strap.

      They are more useful in framed packs than in packs that are frameless and I think that is why they are more common in framed backpacks.

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